Interviews

Stress-free holiday tips and recipes from Food Network star and cookbook author Katie Lee Biegel

Katie Lee cooks for the holidays.
Katie Lee Biegel uses her Sub-Zero, Wolf, and Cove appliances for ‘kitchen therapy” this holiday season. Pic credit: Hunter PR

Food Network star Katie Lee Biegel, who has written four best-selling cookbooks, loves sharing her holiday tips to help others unwind from holiday stress by using her favorite pastime, cooking, as a form of therapy.

There is so much that the chef and devoted mom of two-year-old Iris loves about the holidays that she is spilling over with recipes and tips to share to help each of us navigate the winter holidays with less stress.

She has been on her Food Network show, The Kitchen, for nearly 10 years and does not appear to be slowing down her jam-packed schedule any time soon.

From her gorgeous kitchen, adorned with items from her new partner, Sub-Zero, Wolf and Cove appliances, she is also eager to encourage us to unwind from holiday stress using her tested tips and suggestions.

What I remember the most about my grandma was cooking with her and that she was calm. She passed that on to me,” Biegel tells Monster and Critics.

“We’re coming up on one of the most stressful times of the year – the holidays,” she explains. “Because an astounding 95 percent of Americans find cooking to be calming and soothing,

Read on for why she loves her roles on TV, as a cookbook author and mom, and her eagerness to share tips and recipes for the upcoming Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season.

Monsters and Critics: How many cookbooks have you published so far?

Katie Lee Biegel: I have written and published four cookbooks. My most recent cookbook is called It’s Not Complicated. And it’s just how it sounds; cooking shouldn’t be complicated. So, these are easy, delicious recipes that are great for a Tuesday night or when your company is coming for dinner.

M&C: Why was the theme of it not complicated? Why was that important to you?

KLB: Well, that’s the way that I like to cook. I don’t gravitate toward long, complicated recipes with 25 ingredients. I like things to be simple. I like to use good quality ingredients that you don’t necessarily have to do a lot to. So, this was really the way that I cook, the way that my family likes to eat, and it was a lot of fun to put this cookbook together.

M&C: Tell me a little bit more about your show, The Kitchen, for which you were nominated for an Emmy Award. 

KLB: Well, The Kitchen’s been on now for almost 10 years. We’ve had 30 seasons air, and it just continues to evolve and find new recipes and new tips and tricks, and I just really enjoy it. It’s a lot of fun.

M&C: Is the kitchen the hub of your house?

KLB: Yes, I feel like the kitchen’s the heart of the home, and that’s the whole thing with our show. We are inviting people to hang out in the kitchen with us, and I think that that’s why viewers enjoy it so much. They feel like they’re sitting around on Saturday morning hanging out with us while we cook and we’re talking and having our coffee. It’s just a good time.

M&C: What does the future look like work-wise?

KLB: It always takes me a couple of years to want to do another cookbook, so I’m sure eventually there’ll be another cookbook. But The Kitchen is constantly in production, we film all year long, so I am always writing recipes for the show. And for my social media, I’m always putting new recipes on my Instagram.

Katie Lee Biegel in her kitchen
Katie Lee Biegel, in front of her range, gets ready for the holidays. Pic credit: Hunter PR

M&C: Tell me about holiday preparation in your home.

KLB: Every year, when we’re having the day that we decorate our tree, I make a beef bourguignon, and we watch Christmas movies while we decorate. One of my favorites is The Holiday, with Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz.

M&C: Please talk about a few early memories cooking in the kitchen with your grandma and how the comfort food in your cookbooks and that you make now kind of goes back to that.

KLB:  Well, I pretty much grew up in my grandma’s kitchen. She was my babysitter, and she was always cooking, so I was always in the kitchen with her. That’s where my earliest memories are, making biscuits with her. Biscuit dough was like Playdough for me, and I’m really hoping to pass that on to my daughter.

My lovely daughter is only two years old, but she loves to hang out in the kitchen with me when I’m cooking. She sits in a chair and watches me, and if I’m making a dough, I let her play with it. If I’m stirring, she gets in there, and she stirs. She always makes a little mess, but it’s worth it. I think that so much of food is nostalgia and having those warm memories around it, so I’m really happy to be creating those.

M&C: Is there a tip that you learned as a young child from your grandma or other family members that stayed with you?

KLB: My grandma made everything look really easy. She just was able to whip everything together. For me, it’s about planning ahead. I like to plan, and I make a list for myself so that I can stay very organized in the kitchen, especially with the holidays coming up.

I recently partnered with Sub-Zero, Wolf, and Cove for this kitchen therapy initiative and having those calm moments in the kitchen. There was not a chaotic energy around it. It was something that she enjoyed doing, and she gave me that legacy to pass on to my daughter.

M&C: What do you remember and appreciate most about growing up in West Virginia on a farm?

KLB: I grew up in a small town of only 2,200 people, and it was a sense of community. I was in the same neighborhood as my grandparents, my great-grandmother, my great-aunt, and my uncle. And everybody cooked, everybody shared their food, and it was a really nice way to have my childhood.

M&C: What are ways to help us to cut down on stress and not miss the festive parts of the holiday?

KLB: If you take away that need for perfectionism and just try to enjoy the process and about carving out the time. For me, that’s what the main thing is, is making the plan ahead. I know we’ve got 13 people coming to visit us for Thanksgiving. I know I’m going to be swamped that Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

I’m going to start doing my Thanksgiving prep. I’ll shop the week and weekend ahead of time. I know everything’s going to stay fresh in that Sub-Zero, and I will start cooking. I want most of my cooking to be done on Monday and Tuesday, and then on Thursday, all I have to do is put it in the oven.

M&C: My mom introduced me to the Food Network, and we enjoyed watching them together. Talk about your cookbooks first and then your most recent Food Network shows.

KLB: Well, just hearing you say that, I love being a part of the Food Network because it does feel like we become part of people’s families. And we’re very connected to our viewers and have a loyal audience, which is such a gift. I love my job. I feel like being on The Kitchen is the best gig on TV.

My co-hosts have become my family, the people working behind the scenes as well. We just really have a lot of fun, and that’s what it’s all about. It never feels like work, and I think that’s the way food should feel in general. It should be fun and enjoyable. It’s what brings us all together. I love when I hear from people on social media that they watch The Kitchen and that they’re making my recipes.

M&C: If I had met you 20-30 years ago and I had told you that this is what your life would look like with the Food Network, your cookbooks, and fans, how would you have reacted?

KLB: I probably would have given you a big hug and said, “Amazing. That sounds great.” I feel so incredibly fortunate. It is not lost on me for a second that I got to have my dream job. I love what I do, and I feel very blessed to be doing it. I believe that hard work really pays off and matters and that when you want something, you have to really go after it.

Katie Lee Biegel at home
Food Network host, chef, and doting mom Katie Lee Biegel is excited about the holidays. Pic credit: Hunter PR

M&C: What other Thanksgiving, Christmas, or holiday tips can you share?

KLB: I’m all about being prepared. I think making lists for yourself really does help. But also by choosing the time that you want to eat your holiday meal and working backward. Because so much of it is timing, I remember people would always walk into my grandma’s dinners and go, “Gosh, she just gets everything on the table at the same time like it’s nothing.” So, it’s about figuring out the timing of when everything’s going to be done.

Knowing what time you want the turkey to be done, well, you have to let the turkey sit out for an hour before you put it in the oven. Then you got the cook time. Then you need it to rest for at least an hour after it comes out. After it comes out, how are you going to utilize your oven for the other things that need to be baked? So, I think it’s really all about the timing.

M&C: Do you have a favorite turkey recipe in one of your cookbooks?

KLB: I do. I fix my turkey the same way every year with sage butter under the skin, then a maple-basting broth, and pair it with cornbread stuffing.

M&C: Please share another favorite holiday recipe with my readers that is both tasty and will fill the house with an amazing aroma.

Katie shares her Cinnamon Roll recipe.
Katie shares her favorite holiday recipe. Pic credit: Hunter PR

Katie Lee Biegel’s Recipe for Cinnamon Rolls

Ingredients for Cinnamon Rolls:

  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • One 1 1/4-ounce package instant yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 1 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar 1 large egg, lightly beaten 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus 1/2 cup or more as needed
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Ingredients for Icing:

  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk or orange juice

 Directions:

  1. For the cinnamon rolls: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix the warm water with the yeast and 1 teaspoon of sugar. Set aside for about 5 minutes until the mixture starts to thicken and bubble slightly. (If the mixture does not start to thicken and bubble slightly, the yeast is not working. Check the expiration date on the yeast and start over.)
  2. In a large bowl, stir together 1/2 cup sugar, the egg, oil, and salt. Mix in the cold water and then the boiling water. Add this to the yeast mixture and stir until well blended. With the machine on low speed, slowly add in 4 cups of flour until incorporated.
  3. Knead in the mixer on low speed for about 5 minutes until smooth, adding in the extra 1/2 cup flour or more as needed, so the dough isn’t too sticky. Put the dough into a clean large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until doubled in size, about 3 hours.
  4. Meanwhile, combine the remaining 1/2 cup sugar with the cinnamon in a small bowl. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with about 1 tablespoon of the melted butter using a pastry brush.
  5. Punch down the dough and place it on a lightly floured surface. Using a rolling pin, roll it into a rectangle about 20 by 10 inches, with the long edge facing you. Using the pastry brush, spread 1/4 cup of the melted butter over the top of the dough. Sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar mixture evenly over the dough. Roll up the dough, starting with the long edge facing you, into a tight cylinder. Gently squeeze the cylinder to seal it. Use a sharp knife to cut the dough into 12 even rounds. Place the rounds, cut side down, into the prepared baking dish. There will be some space in between the rounds. Brush the tops of the rolls with the remaining 1 tablespoon of melted butter. Cover the dish tightly with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the rolls until golden, 40 to 45 minutes.
  7. For the icing: Meanwhile, mix the confectioners’ sugar with the milk in a small bowl. When the rolls come out of the oven, drizzle the icing over the hot rolls. Serve while warm.

Cook’s Note

This recipe can also be made without a stand mixer. Knead by hand on a lightly floured surface for 8 to 10 minutes. If the dough is difficult to roll out, allow it to come to room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes. If you like more icing on your rolls, double the icing recipe.

The Kitchen airs on The Food Network.

It’s Not Complicated, and Katie’s other cookbooks are available on Amazon.

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